13 May, 2007

Al Hunter Ashton (1957-2007)

Al Hunter Ashton, the top writer and top actor, died way too early recently and like anyone who ever knew him, I'm gutted.

I was just starting out and had joined the Theatre Writers Union (which later amalgamated with the Writers' Guild). I'd noticed Al's name on credits because the quality of his writing stood out and so when I phoned the Union with a problem I was surprised to find it was Al speaking to me. I've always been fanboy geeky about writers I admire and so was more lost for words then usual. He found out I was from Birmingham and we had a chat about the city and the mighty Blues.

My problem was that I had sent a theatre company a script of mine but a year and a half later they hadn't replied or anything. I wasn't sure of the etiquette as I didn't want to be banned from the industry for asking what was going on (oh, those innocent cowardly days). Al phoned them and I got my script back with an apology and some comments within a week. That story encapsulates how I'll remember him: friendly, passionate, supportive and cutting through the bullshit.

The Guardian obituary

1 comment:

Andy Conway said...

This is absolutely tragic. He's died at such a young age. The only consolation is he's achieved what most of us would take three lifetimes to achieve.

I first met Al at a TWU AGM years and years ago and his abrasive manner made me bristle. The second time I met him it became clear that underneath that no nonsense exterior there was a very generous heart that was beating twice as fast as everyone else's and had no time for typical English niceties. I liked that a lot.

Then you found out just how much he was writing, and not only that, acting, and not only that, working really hard in the Guild to help other writers. He was the kind of writer who made you take a long, hard look at yourself and realise you were wasting so much time.

I shall write more today because of him. That's the effect he had on you.